Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin

I came across a podcast a few months back where the hosts interviewed Nicole Hardy, author of Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin. Hardy was asked to read the prologue to her book, which I found so compelling that I decided to listen to the full audiobook, performed by Hardy herself.

I find book reviews a bit odd. I’ve purchased books based on recommendations from friends which, a few chapters in, wondered what I had done. I’ve come to rely on Kim to tell me about books she enjoyed before investing in the audiobook. But this time it was me who recommended Hardy’s book to Kim.

Hardy was raised by Mormon parents who expected her to follow the path they traveled: maintain the values of the LDS church while finding companion to marry, ideally at a young age. She attended BYU where she makes friends, but doesn’t find a husband. So she goes off in search of adventure selling peanuts for the Chicago Cubs and scuba diving with friends in exotic locations, thinking maybe a man will come along if she’s not actively searching for one.

Hardy finds it difficult to meet men who share her same religious beliefs, and those men she meet outside the church, don’t fully understand her desire to save sex until marriage. She struggles to comes to terms with what she’s been told all her life by her parents and church leaders and what she experiences into her mid 30s.

Some of the most compelling passages are when Hardy describes her frustration with how her church treats unmarried women in their 30s. She wonders if she has a place in the church. Her mom tries to console her by saying God will have someone prepared for her in the next life if she’s unable to find a suitable mate while on earth.

The interactions with her parents are heartbreaking at times. I’ve also struggled with wanting to be forthcoming with my parents while respecting their beliefs, but wanting to live an honest life.

You don’t need to be Mormon to enjoy her journey. I’m glad I came across her book when I did.

Note: The New York Times published Hardy’s essay which resulted in the book deal.

Grades Don’t Always Tell The Story

During my second quarter of college since returning from a church mission, I met with the professor who taught a difficult German literature course. The quarter before, I’d taken a grammar class from this same professor. She was known for being tough on missionaries. She thought many were lazy in their approach to learning German and relied too much on their conversational skills while not spending enough time learning proper grammar. kafka

I didn’t want to be one of those lazy students so I studied hard for the tests and turned in all my assignments. I wasn’t a model college student by any means, but I wanted to prove her assessment of missionaries was wrong.

I earned an “A” in her grammar course. But one week into her literature course, and I was ready to wave the white flag. My concern with the class had to do with the amount of reading she required. I’m a slower than normal reader, and I felt dropping the course now and picking it up during a another quarter when I was taking fewer credit hours would be a wise move.

As I explained this to the professor, she got up from desk and paced the room. I figured my reasoning was solid, and all I needed was her signature to drop the course. When I finished listing my reasons, she returned to her chair and didn’t say a word. She wasn’t happy. That much was clear.

Then she stood up and walked around her desk to me. She told me she was disappointed that I was giving up after only a week. She dismissed each of my excuses. And she said something that stung:

“Given how well you did in my class last quarter you’re the last person I expected to see in my office ready to give up. Guess you’re just like the others.”

She said she expected more from me. If I needed help, why wasn’t I there to ask for it instead of begging for her signature? She wanted answers. I had them, but they were not the answers she was looking for.

But then she did something that I’d never seen a college professor do: she offered to meet with me as much as I needed if I would remain in class. She said the only way to improve my reading speed was to read more. That’s not what I wanted to hear, but she was right. So for the next two months, I met with her at least once a week to discuss works such as Parzival and Die Verwandlung.

She never once made me feel as though I was imposing on her schedule. There were several instances where she worked around my class and work schedule to meet with me even it meant she remained in her office well outside of normal office hours.

At the end of the quarter, I earned a “B” from the class. Even with the help, I struggled to finish the reading assignments. Initially, I was disappointed with the grade because I’d aced her grammar course while putting in far less effort.

But looking back, I learned a lot more than German literature that quarter. I learned to ask for help when I needed it. I learned how to build a solid relationship with a professor and gained a respect for the work they do which oftentimes goes unnoticed.

And I learned a lot about myself. I was still early into my college years, and learning to work through a difficult situation would prove to be beneficial many times over.

Without a doubt, it was the proudest “B” I’d ever earn.

Quick Review of “Rework”

I just finished listening to an audiobook called “Rework” from Jason Friend and David Heinemeier Hansson. Jason and David are the founders of 37 Signals. rework

There is so much valuable advice packed into this book that it’s difficult to pick a couple of favorite topics. Jason and David provided reasons for hiring well-rounded people instead of those with few outside interests who spend every waking hour at work.

I enjoyed the section detailing how worthless most meetings have become, especially conference calls and how long projects kill enthusiasm, especially small companies. 

At 37 Signals, nobody works on a project for more than two weeks. Long projects allow meetings to creep in and milestones to get pushed out. Actual work gets sidelined. I’ve seen this happen over and over.

Take a look at the projects at your company. How many of them have been going on for months yet making essentially no progress? I’ll bet most of them died months ago. Long projects are great for people who enjoy appearing busy.

But the section that made me think the most covered hiring practices. For years, I’ve thought how misleading resumes have become. They tell you very little about how a person will perform or will fit in with your team.

According to Fried and Hansson, if you find two qualified applicants for a job, hire the one possessing better writing skills.

But don’t look to the résumé for help in determining this. Look at the cover letter. Or the applicant’s blog. Ask for an in-person writing sample if you must. Employees who can write well are the creative life-blood of your organization. They can take various thoughts and ideas and organize them into solvable problems and compelling projects.

I’ve hired applicants with impressive resumes only to find out later, they struggled to communicate with clients and colleagues over email. I won’t let that happen again.

I highly recommend “Rework”. It’s available at Amazon or iTunes.

One Book I’ve Never Read

When I moved to Seattle in 1994 I rented an apartment across the street from the University of Washington and less than a block away from the student bookstore. I was working my first job out of college and didn’t have the money to purchase many books. On my days off I’d walk down the back stairs of my apartment and take a hard right around the corner to the bookstore where I’d gather a stack of books. The stack was mostly filled with computer and programming books but I enjoyed reading about art and history as well. Some days I’d spend 10 hours sitting on the floor readingbook-spock book after book. 

But there’s one type of book I’ve never read. I’ve never been interested in reading books on parenting. Not even the Dr. Spock book it seems like every parents reads before their first child arrives.

I used to feel guilty about having no desire to read about how someone else feels I should raise my children. Yet I read books that make me a better manager. Maybe even a few articles here and there that make me a slightly improved husband. But nothing directly geared towards parenting.

Given that New Year’s resolutions are just around the corner maybe I should head on down to the Barnes and Noble (the one with a Starbucks inside) and check out the latest batch of parenting books. I’m sure there’s something from Stephen Covey and Dr. Phil. And a few thousand more from experts may not have children of their own. 

So with that, if I can find a parenting book that answers the following questions, I’ll buy it.

  1. How many hours of Scooby Doo in a week is appropriate for a 5 year old.
  2. How to remove a plain M&M from the nostril.
  3. How to teach your children to Tivo without deleting Season Passes to Desperate Housewives, The Hills, and The Office.
  4. How to keep your kids from belching (among other sounds) during the quiet times at church.
  5. How to put shoes on the right feet.
  6. How to flush the toilet!
  7. How to help your kids find their inside voices.
  8. How to keep from backwashing Cheerios into dad’s Diet Coke.
  9. How to sleep past 6 am on the weekends.
  10. How to beat your kids at any Nintendo game and live to gloat about it.

We’ve only been raising kids for a few years and have many more to go. So far they seem fine. Half the battle is keeping track of them. Maybe we’ve been blessed with good children. Or maybe they have an awesome mom that makes up for many of the father’s faults. It’s probably a combination of many influences.

One day I’ll be able look back and see how each of them turned out. I’m sure I’ll be able to see what worked and what didn’t. Both Kim and I believe in teaching our children correct principles but allowing them the freedom to learn and grow and make choices that occasionally bring consequences.

As I tucked the kids into bed tonight each of them gave me a hug and kiss to my forehead. When I got to Anna she said, “You’re the best dad in the whole world”. I smiled and was feeling pretty good about myself as I began to leave. Until she added, “But I’m going to ask Santa for a new dad if you don’t let us decorate the tree tomorrow”.

Is there a book for that?

Tolstoy Quote

imageI started reading a book called Made to Stick” today. The tag line to the book is Why Some Ideas Survive While Others Die, and based on the first 75 pages, it’s a worthy read. In fact, I wish every Microsoft employee who gives Powerpoint presentations would pick it up before creating another bullet filled abomination. 

The authors discuss why highly creative ads are more predictable than uncreative ones. In doing so, they employ a great Tolstoy quote:

All Happy Families resemble each other, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way

I plan to review the book when I’m finished.

Link to the authors blog